Looking Ahead 2024: Germany
In Looking Ahead 2024, we explore the most important trends and developments related to labour and employment law in Germany.
- Accidents at work: According to the amendment to the Accident Insurance Notification Ordinance, accidents at work and occupational illnesses are to be reported to the statutory accident insurance fund by electronic data transmission from 1 January 2024.
- Recording of working hours: In a spectacular decision on 13 September 2022, the BAG (Federal Labour Court) ruled that the entire working time of employees in Germany must be recorded. In April 2023, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs presented a draft bill to revise the Working Hours Act. According to the draft, employers are obliged to electronically record the start, end, and duration of employees’ daily working hours on the day they work. Although employees can be instructed to record their working hours themselves, employers shall remain responsible for proper recording. They shall take appropriate measures to ensure that they become aware of any breaches of the statutory provisions on the duration and timing of working hours and rest periods. Fines of up to EUR 30,000 can be imposed for offences. The draft bill has not yet been adopted. It is currently unclear when the German Working Hours Act will be revised and which concrete changes will be adopted.
- Compensatory levy: As long as employers do not employ the statutorily prescribed number of severely disabled people, they must pay a compensatory levy for every unfilled mandatory job for severely disabled people. The amount of this levy has increased as of 1 January 2024. Employers with an average annual employment rate of 0% for severely disabled people have to pay a monthly compensatory levy of 720 euros per unfilled position that should be filled with a severely disabled person.
- Immigration of skilled workers: The Immigration Act for Skilled Workers was passed in June 2023. It is intended to facilitate the recruitment of skilled workers from third-world countries and counteract the shortage of skilled labour. Some changes have already been in force since November 2023, while others will come into force in the course of 2024.
In March 2024, new regulations on residence for the recognition of foreign professional qualifications will come into force. Even if their qualification is not formally recognized in Germany, skilled workers from third countries will then be allowed to work in non-regulated professions in Germany. The requirements are at least two years of professional experience and a professional qualification recognized by the state in the country of origin after at least two years of training. However, a salary threshold must be met or there must be a collective agreement. This is intended to prevent qualified skilled workers from being employed in the low-wage sector.
Starting June 2024, people from third countries will be able to obtain the so-called “opportunity card” for residence to look for a job. Third-country nationals who can prove the equivalence of a foreign qualification and are considered skilled workers will receive the card without any further requirements. All others must provide proof of a foreign university degree, a qualification following at least two years of vocational training or a professional qualification issued by a German chamber of commerce abroad, as well as German or English language skills.
- Corporate due diligence obligations in supply chains: The Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains came into force on 1 January 2023. It is primarily aimed at bringing transparency to international supply chains and subjecting them to minimum human rights and environmental standards. From 1 January 2024, the Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains will impose specific obligations to companies that have their registered office or a branch office in Germany and generally employ at least 1,000 workers.
However, the catalogue of obligations also indirectly affects companies that are not covered by the scope of the law due to their smaller size, but whose products and services are part of the supply chain.
- Minimum wage: The statutory minimum wage has increased to EUR 12.41 gross per hour on 1 January 2024 and will increase further to EUR 12.82 gross per hour on 1 January 2025.
- Mini jobs: The monthly earnings limit for mini-jobs is dynamic and is based on the minimum wage. It hence increased from EUR 520 gross to EUR 538 gross per month on 1 January 2024, as the minimum wage increased as well. The annual earnings limit increased accordingly to EUR 6.456 gross.
- Sick note by telephone: On 7 December 2023, the Federal Joint Committee decided that, in the future, it will again be possible to determine incapacity for work based on a medical evaluation by telephone. The prerequisite is that the illness does not have severe symptoms, a video consultation is not possible, and the patient is already known to the respective doctor’s practice. The initial certificate should certify incapacity for work for a period of no more than five calendar days. The doctor’s office should be visited for a follow-up certificate. The incapacity for work directive is to be amended accordingly in the near future.
- Qualification allowance: In July 2023, the Act to Strengthen the Promotion of Initial and Further Training was passed. Among other things, the law contains a reform of further training funding as well as the introduction of a qualification allowance and a training guarantee. The planned right to paid training leave was not implemented.
The new qualification allowance is a compensation benefit and works in a similar way to the short-time working allowance. It can be received from the employment agency from 1 April 2024 if there is a risk of job losses due to the transformation of the world of work, but the employees concerned can continue to be employed after undergoing further vocational training for the duration of which they are released from work.